The rescue of a 16-year-old girl from Delhi’s red light district on Monday brought the Capital’s wide-spread prostitution racket under spotlight. The girl was rescued by the West Bengal Police from brothel number 56, which is owned by a couple lodged in Tihar jail.
Afaq Husain and Saria Begum have been allegedly trafficking girls and forcing them into prostitution for the past 17 years. They have been arrested at least seven times in the past and are currently booked under the non-bailable Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).
However, this has failed to stop the racket they run at Delhi’s red light district — GB Road. Monday’s rescue operation came after raids at the same brothel in August in which the couple was arrested. It raised questions on the crime branch’s claim that the prostitution syndicate run by the couple had been busted.
The rescued girl, who is from Durgapur in West Bengal, was trafficked in 2014 and forced into prostitution. “The girl took a mobile phone from a customer and called her father. We traced the location through the phone call and contacted the local police. The girl was rescued from the brothel,” said Umakant of the West Bengal Police, who is the investigating officer in the case.
According to the Delhi Police crime branch, over 80% business at GB Road is controlled by two-three operators, who have their own network of agents. Afaq and Saria are allegedly the influential operators who control everything from a distant location through handpicked brothel managers.
“The fact that the Delhi Police had raided the same place in August 2016, when this girl was probably confined there, says a lot about the nexus of the traffickers. Instead of just arresting the traffickers, the police must break the nexus,” said Rishi Kant of the Shakti Vahini NGO, who assisted the West Bengal Police in the operation.
The crime branch admitted that girls are sold to the brothel owners for Rs 1 lakh and the victims are confined in hidden cells, thrashed, intoxicated, starved and forced into commercial activity.
“While the victims are compelled to live in terrible conditions, their distressed family members keep running from pillar to post to trace them. The crime branch studied the crime pattern to institute effective action against the key perpetrators and real beneficiaries of this illegal trade,” the crime branch said in August.
The Delhi Police has also proposed to seal the brothel owned by the couple and the matter is pending in the court.
“At the time of rescue, our team had asked the girls if they wanted to come with us as there are many adult girls who prefer to stay. Those, who agreed, were rescued while the rest were allowed to stay. The couple is still in jail,” said a senior crime branch official.
The victims, most of whom are minors from poor families, are trafficked from Nepal and various other parts of the country by agents in an organised manner. The girls are brought to Delhi on the pretext of lucrative jobs and marriage.